Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Scouting Ride

Sunday dawned relatively cool and clear. Today, Derek had planned a scouting ride to try to link up various pieces of single track here on the south side of Brisbane for an Epic ride he is planning shortly after christmas.

We had nine starters for the 6am start and we managed to finish up with eight. To my mind an acceptable loss rate on a ride like this!

Did I mention it was relatively cool? Well, this didn't last long. We were all drenched with sweat at the end of the first single track, just ten minutes into the day! It was hot, hot, HOT on sunday. I personally downed at least four litres of water laced with Endura and Nuuns.

Anyway, enough from me. You can get a feel for what it is all about here......I was toast by the time we hit is going to be a BIG ride.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Visual Pleasure

Being struck down by the man flu this week is as frustrating as always. Making it infuriating is the fact that I am on week one of my annual leave!

So, apart from painting the house and sniffling a lot, there isn't much happening. I have had to search around the interwebs for interesting mountain biking content. When I found this little number (actually, a huge file) I was awakened to a level of bike control that I am not sure I even knew existed!

For your viewing pleasure, MOUNTAIN Biking..........Into Thin Air

INTO THIN AIR | engl. Subtitles from infinite trails on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Karingal 4 Hour

Well, the good folk from Brisbane South Mountain Bike Club have put on another great mornings racing with the staging of their annual Karingal 4 Hour on Sunday.

The setup featured a new, spacious race base with plenty of room for setting up your tent, shelter or home away from home. Great prizes like Garmin 705s and new bikes were on offer thanks to major sponsor For The Riders. 

Another new feature this year was a dry track! No more mud and carnage as displayed last year. No sir, it was going to be fast and flowing so I thought I would take it down a notch by attacking the race on my trusty fully rigid single speed. Just to make sure I took the sting out of myself, I was saddled with the wrong gearing for this undulating little track. 32/18 is not the ratio for me to push here. FedEx wasn't going to have the 32/20 freewheel here in time and two teeth on the rear doesn't sound like much difference, but it is so much more forgiving on my pipe cleaner legs.

Undaunted, I lined up somewhere near the back so as not to hold anyone up when I blew up on the first hill! It was a very leisurely start with a 500 or so metre roll along the fire road to help sort everyone out before dropping into the singletrack. On said first hill, having only one speed, I could not entertain the speeds being showcased by my fellow back markers simply because my legs would not turn a 32/18 ratio that slowly on such a steep climb, so the only solution was to smash it! So I did for a while, then backed off for sustainability reasons. This was after all a 4 hour ride er....race. And that was how I paced myself for the day. A new toy helped with the pacing. As I completed each lap I pitted under our shelter, changed camera angles, grabbed a fresh water, a bite to eat and had a chat to Chris. All very civilized!

My goal was six laps and I must admit that on my third lap I was thinking to myself, as the morning warmed up, that there is no way I can double the number of laps in the time left. Just then, Shane, the eventual winner of Open mens, flew past me into a corner and gave me a little inspiration. Although there was no way I would be backing it in like he was! Really impressive to watch a seriously fast rider racing, if only briefly.

I continued to roll around, chat and generally enjoy myself for the remainder of the allotted time. In the end I pushed out six laps in about 4:20 with a moving time of 3:30. Obviously taking it pretty easy, but the legs were toast by the last lap.

Please bear with me a little as I attempt to figure out how to use the new camera. I promise I will change the mounting location in the future (unless I receive requests for more ;) ). In the mean time, I "scrote's-eye-view"! Look away if easily offended.

A huge thanks to all from BSMC that pitched in and helped out with the set up, running and of course the pack up after the event. Many club members choose not to race so as to provide everyone else with a great day out and I am selfishly in the riding group, so without mentioning names, this core group of volunteers always puts on a race day that equals professionally run mountain bike events. Take a bow ladies and gents. Top effort.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wild Weather

While I do not normally talk about work here on my blog, I have just spent the last three days operating through what must surely be the worst sustained thunderstorm activity that I have witnessed in my twenty odd years of flying for a living and feel it warrants a mention, if only for my personal amusement at a later date.

A large trough of low pressure has lain across south eastern Australia for the last four days. The ensuing instability in the atmosphere has seen these cells "pop" with incredible speed, just after midday each day and form into massive, impenetrable lines of thunderstorms.

I had the dubious pleasure of taxiing for departure in Sydney as a massive thunderstorm rolled over on Tuesday afternoon. Air Traffic Control(ATC) basically just "parked" us and all of the other aircraft attempting to depart, on the taxiways, until the storm passed and it was safe to depart. We happened to be parked about one hundred and fifty metres from the control tower and at some point during the light show I happened to look at the tower at the exact moment a bolt of lightning struck it about midway down! Shortly after, a sheepish voice said over the radio "we think that one just hit us". It sure did, but as testament to the design of the control tower there was no interruption to the service provided from ATC. I did feel like moving a bit further away from them though. Sitting in an open field with a metal tail sticking 12.5 metres into the sky makes you feel somewhat like a fish in a barrel!

Tuesday proved to be just a warm up for the main event on Wednesday though. Scheduled to operate from Melbourne to Adelaide, we never actually got onto our flight planned track!

A cold front was moving in and (referencing the Mean Sea Level chart above) the blue line with the sharks teeth exactly represented a complete line of thunderstorms that stretched from just south west of Melbourne to about 180 kilometres to the north east of Adelaide. Unbroken. 780 kilometres long. 39 000 feet high.

Fortunately we had gassed the aircraft up to almost ludicrous levels and flying 180 kilometres out of our way was no fuss. We actually managed to deliver our load of passengers to Adelaide without so much as a bump. Icing on the cake for our professional egos!
The return flight to Melbourne would be the more interesting sector though. It was obvious to me that these storms would be overhead Melbourne Airport by the time we arrived. These fronts usually move from west to east at a fair clip and you can count on an affected airport being clear within an hour or so. The fact that these were moving northwest to southeast was somewhat disconcerting though. In this industry you must always have a plan "B", "C" and "D", with the possible option of an E and F too. It will simply not do to paint yourself into a corner and need to be on the ground, now. With this firm rule in mind we yet again rang up big numbers with the refueller.
Nearing top of descent into Melbourne and the picture wasn't pretty. The aircraft's radar was painting a picture with lots of red and yellow returns. Now, bright colours are fine on a lollipop, but not at all what you want to see on the weather radar. That white arrow is the direction of the wind and the speed is 101 knots(187km/h) and it was blowing the line of cells along, keeping them continuously over Melbourne Airport (the small green circle near the top of screen).

  ATC let us know that Melbourne was closed for arrivals and departures and to hold in our present position(which was about 80 kilometres northeast of Portland). Fine with us as we would not make an approach with this kind of weather around the airport anyway.
So, we proceeded to hold. For about fifty minutes we went in circles or speared out over Bass Straight in the Cape Otway area as we made room for more aircraft to hold. Eventually we reached a point where ATC was estimating (read guessing) that the airport might reopen in 20 minutes and then we would be about number eight or ten in the sequence to land. Hmmm, the unpainted path out was about as small as we felt comfortable with and we decided to bug out back to Adelaide, take on more fuel and try again as the front would have progressed about three hours further along.
This done, we eventually arrived in Melbourne at 11pm, after leaving the first time at about 6:45pm! Not bad for a fifty two minute flight! I avoided pointing out that if our passengers had driven to Melbourne they would have arrived at a similar time! Sometimes the old addage "got time to spare?, go by air!" assumes more truth than a pilot would like!
 I would like to point out that our cabin crew were fantastic throughout and ninety nine percent of our guests disembarked in Melbourne with a smile on their face and a kind word. The other one percent were too tired to talk!  It is pleasing to see that we must have done something right and kept peoples spirits up despite the loooong day that were on duty. This job has too many sublties for the average traveller to grasp whether we are doing a good job up the front, so we tend to take kind words as a measure of a job well done.
It certainly made me feel better about clocking on late morning and clocking off at 1am!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Pinch of Skill and a Dash of Luck

This amazing scene involving a LOT Airlines Boeing 767 (Bloody big Jet) occurred today in Warsaw.

Kudos to the drivers on a tidy job. It even looked like they kept it on the centre line!